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Following is the text of a document circulated internally by the American Society (ACS) in April 1999. In March 2000, after the resignation of Dr. Gabriel Feldman from the job of Director for Prostate Cancer, this document was leaked to Les Winick, a prostate cancer survivor and former consultant to the USPS Stamps Division. Winick works as marketing consultant to postal administrations throughout the world.

For what was happening at the time, in March -May 1999, see Upfront Table of Contents. For Les Winick's opinion of this document, see "ACS Chief Tried to Censor Awareness Stamp," March 2000. The text below is complete except for telephone numbers and names of two internal contacts at ACS.


American Cancer Society Field Notice on
United States Postal Service Prostate Cancer Awareness Stamp

EN Number:
EN-49-PR
Week Of: 04/22/99 -04/23/99
Date: April 23, 1999
To: Cancer Control Directors, Communications/Marketing Directors, Prostate Cancer Specialists, Advocacy Directors
From: Wendi Klevan, Manager National Cancer Control Communications
 

This notice announces that the United States Postal Service will unveil a prostate cancer awareness stamp in Austin, Texas, on May 28, and the stamp will be issued nationally on May 29. This announcement includes some background about the stamp for internal use, and the American Cancer Society statement to address external inquiries


The United States Postal Service will unveil a prostate cancer awareness stamp in Austin, Texas, on May 28, and the stamp will be issued nationally on May 29.

Following is some background about the stamp for internal use, and the American Cancer Society statement to address external inquiries. The background and statement will be posted on the Communications Materials Library database in Lotus Notes.

Several months ago, a company marketing a commemorative edition of the United States Postal Service's prostate cancer stamp solicited Dr. Gabriel Feldman, ACS's Director of Prostate Cancer. Dr. Feldman had heard from some ACS staff that a stamp was to be released, but it was through this company that he saw the final design of the stamp. A depiction of the male gender symbol appears on the stamp with text that reads "Prostate Cancer Awareness: Annual Checkups and Tests." The Stamp's message surprised Gabe, as well as the others at ACS. Unlike the breast cancer stamp, issued in 1998, the prostate stamp will not be priced above the first-class postal rate, to generate revenue to fund federal research (the Postal Service opposed the bill proposing a new "semipostal" stamp). And, the breast cancer stamp did not include a screening message -- it had been assumed the prostate stamp would take a similar awareness approach.

The NCI and CDC, who do not support the promotion of prostate cancer screening, expressed concern to ACS that the stamp's text might easily lead the public to believe that the U.S government and the medical community recommends annual testing for prostate cancer for all men. Public health organizations that are in agreement with the American Cancer Society's position on prostate cancer screening also indicated their concern over the appropriateness of the stamp's text. In a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, experts at Dartmouth's Foundation for Informed Decision Making called for the stamp not to be released in its present form.

Gabe initiated a meeting with the Postmaster General and the Stamp Services Division to discuss the stamp. The request was denied on several occasions. A letter from the Postmaster General to ACS explained that the Stamp Advisory Council makes decisions about stamp design with input from the Postmaster General, and is totally independent of the organized public health and scientific community. The Stamp Services Division said that they feel they have the right to freely express themselves on the important public health issue without guidance from the public health community.

ACS has repeatedly asked the Stamp Services Division to either revise or simply delete the text from the stamp, so that ACS can endorse the stamp and the Postal Services' awareness raising efforts. Unfortunately, the Postmaster General's office and the Stamp Services Division have refused to consider changing, tweaking or eliminating the text. ACS informed the Postmaster General that, given our guidelines for early detection of prostate cancer and our public stance promoting informed decision making for men regarding prostate cancer, we are unable to endorse the stamp.

Please use the following statement to handle external inquiries:

The American Cancer Society encourages men and their families to learn about prostate cancer so that they can make informed healthcare decisions. Prostate cancer is a complex disease - it is important for men to understand the available testing and treatment options. Because of this complexity, the American Cancer Society does not support the message on Postal Services prostate stamp given its blanket recommendation for testing. While we can not endorse the prostate stamp, we do hope that it will stimulate dialogue between men, their families and their physicians about this important health concern.


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